Edwards Ferry: Crossing Sequence

On Sunday, I had the privilege of showing off the Virginia side of Edwards Ferry for Gettysburg Daily.  I have not conducted a “tour” of this nature since facilitating staff rides when I was in the Army.  So I was rusty in my presentation style.  Bobby Housch suffered through several re-takes as I stumbled through my sentences.  But in the end he coached me through, and we had enough video for a post or two on his site.  I’m looking forward to see how it turns out!

One of the props I used for the tour was this time line:

Edwards Ferry Crossing Timeline

Even after careful study of the events, I needed to visualize the traffic flow at the bridge site.  So in true “techie” fashion, I worked up this time line in Visio.  The center bar is the span of time from the morning of June 25, 1863 to midnight of June 27/28.  On either side of that time bar are blocks depicting generally when each unit crossed.  Above are the units crossing on the upper bridge; below are those crossing on the lower bridge.

Due to space constraints on the line, and vague data from first hand accounts, I did not use hourly time hacks for the crossing times.  Furthermore the nighttime activities are compressed.  As mentioned on my post regarding light data, the moon sat around midnight on each of the vital crossing nights.  With no direct accounts alluding to activity on the bridge after midnight, I am left to assume traffic on the bridge tailed off at those times.

Derived from this time line I have a set of maps depicting the traffic flow at the bridge.   For example, here’s my rough depiction of what must have been a terrible traffic jam around noon on June 26:

At that time, Slocum’s Twelfth Corps was completing the crossing and moving up the C&O Canal towpath.  The Artillery Reserve was on the lower bridge completing their crossing.  Army Headquarters arrived at the lower bridge and began to cross.  Second Corps’ lead elements were moving up from Frankville on the Leesburg Pike.  And Fifth Corps had moved up from Aldie to Leesburg.

I plan to post all these maps over the next few days, to better illustrate the traffic flow at the crossing site.

UPDATE:  I have posted the maps as sub-pages under the Edwards Ferry Crossing page listed on the side bar to the right:  June 25, June 26, and June 27.

Published by Craig Swain

"Historical marker hunter" and Civil War enthusiast.

18 thoughts on “Edwards Ferry: Crossing Sequence

  1. Dear Craig,

    I read and heard your posting on the Gettysburg Daily site
    and I think it is very interesting. It’s nice to hear about the Virginia crossings and how far the armies traveled to reach Gettysburg.

    I live in Hanover, PA, and I have a degree in History. My great-great-great Grandfather fought at the battle of Gettysburg.

    If you are interested, I could send you a Civil War song I composed.

    All the best,

    Mike Blottenberger

    1. Mie was surprised to see your name in the comments about Craigs article on the Virginia bridge.
      Our writers group in Glen Burnie has missed hearing from you. There were only 3 of us left so we disbanded it this year. Would be great to hear from you.

  2. Hi Craig, I enjoyed your post of the Union crossing at Edwards Ferry. I took the White Ferry last Fall from Virginia over to Maryland. Upon reaching the other side, I spotted a “Civil War Trails” marker that pointed to the left, which I took and proceeded to a position which said that it was Robert E. Lee’s crossing point. My question is that the spot was very grown over with foliage and next impossible to reach the shore. Are you aware of any plan to improve that marker/position in the future? Thanks in advance Craig, Jim Werlein

    1. Jim, was the site you visited at White’s Ferry or White’s Ford. White’s Ford, where Lee and much of the ANV crossed in Sept. 1862, is easily accessed via the C&O canal on the Maryland side. The Virginia side is much harder to visit, as currently it is private property. The Northern Virginia Parks Authority has a project aimed at developing the site into a park.

    2. I drove into Martinsburg, MD after crossing on the Jubal Early Ferry, went left on Martinsburg Rd a few miles and then into the Dickerson Conservation Park.

  3. Craig,

    I agree that you can’t compare the Edwards Ferry crossing in 1863 with the James R. crossing in 1864. You make the good comment in Pt. V of your Gettysburg Daily post that the Edward’s Ferry crossing was hindered by the lack of moonlight. But another important factor that would make the Edwards Ferry crossing different was that Grant used boats to move some of his men and supplies across the James R. If Grant’s army used both boats and a pontoon bridge, that would allow the Army of the Potomac to cross the James in less time. I’ve not read anything that tells of boats being used at Edwards Ferry.

    1. Good points, as always, Nancy. No, the troops did not use boats to cross at Edwards Ferry. But the engineers did use the canal boats to move some of the equipment. As I say, I like to find “apples to apples” comparisons, and there is not an exact match!

      The conclusion that I would LIKE to draw is that Grant was more decisive than Hooker, and provided better guidance to his subordinates. I think the closest one might come is that Humphreys did a better job than Butterfield with regard to staff planning. That is apparent just looking at the two sets of orders in the Official Records.

  4. Hello Craig,

    I was viewing your write up on the Guard Hill Marker in Riverton, VA. You mention Dr. Kenner’s house. I didn’t realize that Joseph W. Kenner was a doctor. I am a descendant of Alexander Kenner (my great grandfather), who was a brother of Joseph and Thomas Buck Kenner. I live in Ellicott City, Maryland.

    Nice write up.

  5. Mr. Swain,I am Historian for of the Simonton-Wilcox Camp 257, Sons of Confederate Veterans,located in Covington,Tn 38019.I do Civil War metal detecting in our area,and was hunting in Lake County @ Tiptonville,Tn. and talked with a local resident concerning CaptainWm. Bryan Isler,that was shot and died @ the battle of Belmont,Ky.His Father,John P Isler, is buried in Jones Cemetery in Tiptonville.I have looked for the burial location of Wm. B. Isler ,but can’t find anything.The man that we talked with belongs to Jone Chapel church and they have a tomb stone with Captain Wm. Islem’s name bithh,death and related ,with CSA on the stone.The members would like to place the stone,but sure where Wm. Isler war buried.I got your name from websit listing the Jones Chapel Cemetery Dat.Do you have any idea as to the burial location of Captian Wm. Isler??????If so please e-mail me.

  6. Craig Swain,

    I would like to read Rousseau’s official report at Shiloh. I have a 2-great grandfather (lt. Col. Hiram Prather in the Indiana 6th Regiment) who was wounded at Shiloh. I am trying to see if this was mentioned in his report.


    Ken Kellar

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